Volunteer

Event: Tall Forest Birding Survey Behind the Locked Gates

May
19

The Tall Forest is a substantial block of valley oak-dominated woodland strongly resembling the pre-Anglo Central Valley riparian forests, a habitat now almost obliterated from California. The big trees overtop a varied, dense understory, and California grape and poison oak climb into the canopy in many places. The complex vegetative structure permits a rich variety of birds to reside permanently or seasonally there. Come join John Trochet, leader of this survey for more than two decades now, as we follow the birdlife of the preserve’s plum parcel through the seasons and across the years.

This is a survey on foot lasting five to six hours, sometimes longer when the birding is exceptional. Because we start early, we have a good chance to see mammals as well, such as beaver, river otter, striped skunk, raccoon, coyote, squirrels and deer, plus ectothermic vertebrates on occasion. A good variety of local butterflies and odonates is found in season. In places the trails are nothing more than animal traces, and we push through blackberry thickets, clamber over down logs and bend under low limbs or grape tangles to make our way through. This is not a trip for folks in shorts nor for small children (not recommended for children less than 10 years of age). Footwear requirements vary with the season. Mud is usual between November and April, sometimes later, and standing or moving water is possible in this same time frame. At this time of year at least, rubber knee boots are strongly suggested. Ticks are often common in spring and early summer. Stickers (especially beggars tick and cocklebur) are features of late summer and autumn. Rubber knee boots mitigate against these, too. Mosquitoes may be abroad on any modestly warm day of the year. One needs to be prepared for these things. Because this is the only regularly scheduled opportunity for the public to see this area, I do not insist that participants be birders. Anyone with any natural history interest is welcome. But bear in mind that it is a bird survey if your interest lies elsewhere.

Especially during the rainy season, river conditions may change quickly and dramatically. During minor flood events, rubber knee boots may be insufficient to conduct the survey. I do allow others to join me when hip boots are required. At this season one should check this website or the Central Valley Birds listserv (where the leader can post late notice himself) the day before the survey to find out if hip boots are required. Seeing this place in flood is a special experience, too, though the woodland birding during flood events is generally poor. The surveys in June and July are not recommended as they start very early (tough for most people to get up for), are typically hot and the birds at that season few and quiet.

The Tall Forest is a wonderful place. I urge all who are able to visit at least once.

Tour will depart from the Farm Center gate at 5:30 a.m. (Corner of Bruceville Road and Desmond Road)